Understanding the Pipe Fitter Job Description

February 19, 2022

A pipefitter or pipefitter installs, repairs, and maintains piping systems. They read design specifications necessary for building appropriate heating, cooling, steam generation, and industrial piping assemblies. They may also work across different environments, from industrial settings, home installations, to install pipe systems in commercial buildings.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), pipefitters, steamfitters, and plumbers earned a median salary of about $56,300 annually in 2020. That’s approximately $27.08 per hour.

In this article, we’ll take a deep dive into the pipefitter job description. We’ll also discuss what distinguishes pipefitters from  plumbers, the job outlook, salary expectations, and much more.

What’s the Difference Between Pipe Fitters and Plumbers?

Although pipefitters and plumbers both work on pipes and piping systems, there’s a significant difference in the types of systems they handle.

Plumbers install, repair, and assemble systems that fall under the public utility umbrella such as drainage, heating, and water transportation. They troubleshoot problems related to burst pipes and pipe leaks and are also capable of installing system-dependent appliances, including water heaters, dishwashers, garbage disposals, and hot water tanks.

Pipefitters, on the other hand, work with a wide range of pipe materials and systems. Their primary specialization is designing and assembling complex pipe networks, mainly for industrial or building purposes.

They can also design systems for handling condensation, gasses, steam, drain lines, lubrication, heating, refrigeration, and other actions. They may also set up automated controls for these procedures and work in commercial and residential settings, similar to plumbers.

Difference in Skills

Since plumbers manage water-based installation and repair, they typically work on copper and PVC pipes. Alternatively, pipefitters may work on chemical transport piping, high-pressure units, and air conditioning systems. That’s why a pipefitter must have adequate knowledge of welding equipment, metallurgy, and power tools.

Difference in Workplace

Plumbers generally work in residential and commercial settings such as homes, offices, and apartments. They help install water supply, sink, kitchen, and machinery that run on water, such as refrigerators and washing machines.

Meanwhile, pipefitters play a crucial role in oil, construction, manufacturing, and energy generation. They lay the high-pressure and low-pressure pipe systems, install supporting structural steel members, and perform routine inspection and maintenance.

Despite their many differences, something both professions have in common  is that they remain incredibly high in demand across the construction industry. If you can’t decide which career path is right for you, explore the Associate of Science in Plumbing and Heating at the New England Institute of Technology, where you can access the best of  both.


Earn your degree in Plumbing & Heating from NEIT and begin your new career path today!


A pipe fitter bends pipe and checks for flaws

Pipe Fitter: Job Description and Responsibilities

A pipefitter may work on the pipe systems and supports for the following applications:

  • Oil and Gas production
  • Hydraulic and Pneumatics
  • Hot water supply
  • Heating and cooling systems
  • Lubrication supply
  • Industrial processing units
  • Manufacturing facility

Typical responsibilities of a pipefitter include:

  • Reading and reviewing blueprints
  • Applying knowledge of system operation to select the most suitable pipe type and size
  • According to specifications, install support equipment like hangers, brackets, pneumatic equipment, and hydraulic cylinders
  • Inspect the worksite to ensure no obstructions to the pipe and if there are any holes or interference, repair or modify the design
  • Cutting pipes using handheld and power tools like hammer and chisel, cutting torch, pipe cutter, and pipe cutting machine
  • Threading and bending pipes using pipe bending tools and threading machines
  • Assembling and installing tubes, fittings, and non-metallic attachments.
  • Joining pipes using threads, soldering, brazing, or cemented connections
  • Inspecting piping systems and machinery to detect machinery malfunctions
  • Creating protective pipe layers using paints and other mechanisms
  • Operating material movement machinery to lift pipes, support equipment, and heavy machinery
A team of pipe fitters working on a piping system

What’s a Typical Job Description Like?

If you’re applying for a job as a pipefitter, the listings you encounter will likely contain the following information:

We’re looking for a skilled pipefitter to join immediately at our in-plant location. An ideal candidate must know blueprint reading, understand design and installation specifications, and lay appropriate pipe systems in a lube refinery. Prior experience in power plants and refineries would be an added advantage.

Job Type: Full-time

Worksite: Requires travel to various sites

Pay: $22/hour + paid training + benefits

Duties and Responsibilities: Working at airports, manufacturing plants, and service stations. You’ll be using pipe threading equipment, concrete tools, welding sticks, jackhammer, acetylene torch, and small hand tools to install and maintain high-pressure chemical supply pipelines.

Skills: Welding (MIG, TIG, Arc, etc.). Drawing interpretation. Basic knowledge of fabrications and system schematics. Communication. Ability to work as a team player.

Education Requirements: High School Diploma/GED/Apprenticeship program. Class D-driving license (auto, light truck, moped)

A pipefitter threads pipe using welding and cutting machines

Required Skills and Qualifications 

If you’re looking to join an expanding industry and favor the idea of working in an hands-on environment, then becoming a pipefitter may be a great career choice. If you think you would do better in plumbing, be sure to read our guide on how to become a plumber

Now, let’s take a closer look at what it takes to excel as a pipefitter. 


A high school diploma or GED is generally the minimum requirement to apply for a  pipefitter apprenticeship. You can also enroll in on-the-job training programs after high school. While you may not earn much during an apprenticeship, you’ll likely spend more time completing a formal education program.

That said, a certificate program or an associate’s degree will significantly increase your chances of earning a higher wage. 

Related: Everything you need to know about Plumbing Trade Schools.


Some of the typical requirements for pipefitters include:

  • Technical proficiency
  • Ability to read and interpret visual data
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Strong communication skills
  • Physical strength
  • Knowledge of health and safety guidelines

Job Outlook and Salaries

Man installs underfloor water heating floor construction

The mean annual wages for plumbers and pipefitters in the United States is $61,100 per year, while the top ten percent of earners pocket upwards of $98,990 annually. Depending on your qualifications, work experience, certification, and job location, you can expect even higher salaries

Top-Paying States and Cities

According to BLS, the mean annual wages in Rhode Island is $60,520. Comparatively, Alaska offers the highest mean salaries to plumbers and pipefitters at $88,150 per year. The top five states for mean annual wage are:

  • Alaska: $88,150
  • Illinois: $87,880
  • Massachusetts: $80,860
  • Minnesota: $76,080
  • New Jersey: $75,840

Similarly, the top five cities with the highest average salaries are:

  • San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, California: $106,100
  • Fairbanks, Alaska: $94,280
  • Kankakee, Illinois: $93,420
  • Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, Illinois-Indiana-Wisconsin: $91,940
  • Pittsfield, Massachusetts: $90,980

Best Companies to Work for

According to Zippia.com, the following companies offer excellent salaries, benefits, and work culture:

  • 3M
  • Southern
  • Merck
  • EMCOR Group
  • Kiewit
  • Laboratory Corporations of America Holdings
  • Covance
  • SpaceX
  • MasTec
  • GNC

Best-Paying Jobs

BLS data suggests that pipefitters working in natural gas distribution and transportation earn the highest salaries. Construction and non-residential building construction offer jobs with excellent wages. Heavy construction, plumbing, heating, and air conditioning contractors also provide plenty of jobs for pipefitters.

Common Interview Questions

Once you complete your education and training as a pipefitter, you should start preparing for job interviews. These are some of the typical interview questions that employers might ask pipefitters:

  • Can you explain the various methods for testing and inspection of pipe systems?
  • How do you select an appropriate pipe material?
  • What are the steps required in planning a piping installation?
  • What are the safety hazards that may arise during repair and installation?
  • What are the functions of pneumatic and hydraulic controls in piping?
  • How will you handle deviations during the installation?
  • What was your role in your previous job/training, and what did you learn from it?
A Pipe fitter working on a welding seam


Pipefitters work on industrial piping systems in a hands-on, practical-intensive environment. The right education, training, and experience can help you earn a competitive salary and quickly advance to leadership roles.

The New England Institute of Technology offers a comprehensive Associate of Science in Plumbing and Heating. Students will walk away from the program with extensive knowledge in plumbing, heating, pipefitting, or steamfitting.

An associate’s level education also arms graduates with the communication and critical thinking skills needed to help them stand out from the competition. This will give individuals a leg up when it comes to negotiating salary and landing higher-level positions.


Earn your degree in Plumbing & Heating from NEIT and begin your new career path today!



What Responsibilities Do Pipefitters Have?

A pipefitter is responsible for installing, repairing, and maintaining piping systems for heating and cooling, high-pressure transport, oil and chemicals, natural gas, and more. They read design specifications to cut and weld pipes, perform routine inspections, and lay pipework.

What Tools Does a Pipefitter Use?

Pipefitters use acetylene torches, grinders, welding equipment, pipe bending & threading tools, and pipe cutting machines. They also require hand tools such as a hammer, chisel, and wrench for carrying out their work.

What Settings Do Pipefitters Typically Work In?

Pipefitters work in refineries, natural gas distribution, construction, and manufacturing industries. Heavy industries, plumbing, heating, and air conditioning contractors also employ pipefitters.